logo 1

Understanding the Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation in California

Overview of Legal Separation vs Divorce - California

Are you coping with stressful, ongoing marital conflicts? Are you wondering if it might be time to leave your emotionally draining environment? At Anthoor Law Group, we care about your well-being and understand that constant arguments with your spouse can leave you feeling exhausted and demoralized. 

Often, a spouse gets in contact with our firm and discusses the difficulty in dealing with a marriage they believe is falling apart. Married couples argue and fight. This has been happening forever. But, there’s a difference between a disagreement and a fight and the decision to divorce. Some spouses try to bridge the gap before it’s too late and sometimes they do this by looking for a break, or a separation period before being sure to either stay in the relationship or seek a divorce. That’s why one of the questions we often get is ‘What’s the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?’

While many couples ultimately decide to divorce when their marriage becomes unsatisfying and difficult, legally separating first may make more sense for you and your spouse. A legal separation allows you both to spend time apart before determining the next steps in your marriage. This process is not the same as a divorce, and understanding the differences between the two is essential to making the right choice for your relationship.

Read on as we explain the differences between divorce and legal separation in California. Then call us at Anthoor Law Group at (510) 901-5771 to schedule a consultation.

What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation determines the rights and responsibilities of a couple who wants to live separately. During a legal separation, a couple is still legally married and cannot marry other people. However, they can benefit from court-ordered custody, support, or financial requirements that many couples seek during a divorce.

Legal separation involves a similar filing process to a divorce, and the Court must approve your separation before it becomes official. You and your spouse must also decide on matters such as the division of property and child custody during the legal separation process.

Benefits of a legal separation

The main reason a couple would choose to legally separate instead of divorce is to spend time apart without making the divorce official. If a couple has shared property, pets, children, and finances, the legal separation process can help them divide up these essentials while living separately.

Additionally, a legal separation may be wise for couples with shared health insurance or other financial benefits. Legally separating can allow spouses to stay on the same health insurance plan and take advantage of other marriage-related benefits while still living separately.

Some couples enter a permanent legal separation, while others eventually divorce after the separation. A family lawyer can help determine whether a legal separation is right for your needs.

Essentially, a legal separation puts a ‘pause’ on the marital estate. As we mentioned above, there’s certain financial and tax benefits to this. It can also accommodate folks with certain religious beliefs. Difficult choices relating to child custody and support can also be addressed. And, importantly, separated spouses can have time to reflect on their relationship and figure out ways to make it work.

What Is Divorce?

Divorce is a Dissolution of Marriage

Divorce is the process of legally ending a marriage. While couples in a legal separation are still technically married, a divorce officially ends a marriage.

People often choose to divorce without first legally separating. Here are a few instances where going straight to divorce may make sense for couples:

  • Both spouses are 100% certain that they want to end the marriage.
  • There is no financial benefit to staying married.
  • The couple does not want to spend money on a legal separation when they know a divorce is imminent.
  • One or both spouses want to get remarried.
  • Both spouses want to make independent financial or medical decisions without having the other spouse as their next of kin.

Divorce leads to a cleaner, more definitive conclusion than a legal separation. After a divorce, the spouses are no longer legally tied to each other.

Filing For Legal Separation Vs. Divorce

Filing for a legal separation involves a similar process to filing for divorce. In both cases, one spouse in the married relationship must:

  1. File a petition
  2. Pay a fee
  3. Serve the petition on the other spouse
  4. Provide financial information to the Court

The primary difference between these two processes is the residency requirements. Legal separation has no residency requirements in California. However, to divorce in California, you and your partner must have lived in the state for six months or longer and in the county of filing for at least three months.

Legal Grounds For Legal Separation Vs. Divorce

In a legal separation and a divorce, the filing spouse must list grounds for the filing. The grounds for legal separation and divorce are the same in California:

  • Irreconcilable differences leading to the breakdown of the marriage
  • Incurable insanity

Working with a family law attorney can help establish these grounds if your spouse disagrees.

Reversing A Legal Separation Vs. Divorce

Many people use legal separation as a trial run for divorce. Some couples decide to reverse the legal separation and return to living together and sharing finances, child custody, and other responsibilities.

The processes of reversing a legal separation and a divorce are slightly different. If a couple legally separates and then decides to get back together, they can file a motion with the Court to end the separation. A judge can dissolve the previous arrangement, allowing the couple to receive the legal benefits of marriage.

Meanwhile, in a divorce, the couple must file a reversal motion within 30 days after the judge completes the divorce decree. After 30 days, the couple may need to remarry to "reverse" the divorce.

At Anthoor Law Group, We Are Invested In Getting The Best Results For Our Clients

If you are considering a legal separation or divorce, our divorce lawyers can help. At Anthoor Law Group, our team will do whatever it takes to help you and your spouse make the right decision. Call us today at (510) 901-5771, or fill out our online form, to schedule a consultation.

Copyright © 2022. Anthoor Law Group, A Professional Corporation. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Anthoor Law Group, A Professional Corporation
39210 State Street, Suite 100
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 794-2887

Share This Blog

Ask A Question,
Describe Your Situation,
Request A Consultation

Call (510) 794-2887 or fill out the short form below. We will usually respond within 1 business day but often do so the same day. Don’t hesitate, your questions are welcome.

Contact Form
* Required Fields
Your Information Is Safe With Us

We respect your privacy. The information you provide will be used to answer your questions or to schedule an appointment if requested.

Follow Us On

Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call (510) 794-2887
Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call 
(510) 794-2887


Anthoor Law Group,  
A Professional Corporation

Estate Planning

Hours of Operation

Mon-Fri: 9am – 6:30pm

Anthoor Law Group, A Professional Corporation a law firm, is conveniently located in Fremont, California. We are committed to providing each of our clients with the highest quality of legal representation possible.

join-team-icon 1

© Copyrights 2024. Anthoor Law Group, A Professional Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Powered by Green Cardigan Marketing


The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram